A Dogmatic Coccyx



The following is a piece of fiction. It may have characters or situations I actually have come across.


The green colored wooden door creaked noisily and Krishu stepped out with a tiny water bottle hung upon her shoulders early in the morning. The month of February was much less colder but persistent across the farms and the wide dusty lanes in the village of Lajnagar. Krishu had been waiting for this particular day since last two weeks, when she had come to know of a field trip organized by the school. Though herself a daughter of a still active farmer, she was nevertheless enthusiastic about this trip to farms in a nearby village and more so from the prospect of traveling in the rickety white colored mini-bus. The last time she had got to sit inside it was a year ago when she attended a wedding function of the Sarpanch’s son in a distant village. 

She headed to the place which was around five hundred meters away from her home. Other parents had already assembled with their children. Her mother, Kasumbi, was busy preparing rotis for Rajvansh, Krishu’s father. Rajvansh was to leave for the nearest Head Post Office twenty kilometers away and then had to attend a half a day long government Kisaan Parivartan Yojana where he would learn about newer advancements in farming techniques. Krishu any which way was used to covering that distance alone with familiar open drain lines across the homes, the narrow lanes perpendicular to the main wide one and the colorful wooden doors painted with red, yellow and
blue most often. Her class teacher, Salvani, waived her hand directing Krishu to hurry up. Krishu couldn’t make anything of it and strolled at a leisurely pace. The bus was kept waiting a little ahead with its ignition turned on resulting in a thick black colored smoke emanating from the icy rusted exhaust pipe. The driver, Lala, and his helper, Bholu, were both squatting nearby. They had lit up a small fire with woods to keep themselves warm and had covered their heads with thick woolen scarves. Their sweaters were thick too but not enough for the early morning chill. As Krishu neared the waiting place, Salvani shouted, “Come soon otherwise we are leaving!” Krishu was unaware that she was late because of Kasumbi’s headache last night which prevented her from getting up early.

She was huddled quickly inside the bus along with other children. The seats were cold and the glass of the windows was covered with dust, which had become wet because of the mist. The interiors smelled damp. The shoes of the children had made an interesting pattern on the dust laden floor. Lala opened the door and climbed up to settle down on the driver’s seat. He adjusted the tall rear view mirror and switched on the radio. Vivid Bharti, early in the morning, was relaying folk songs. Bholu was the last to enter and closed the door behind him. The din resulting from the vibrating windows and croaky engine made it difficult to listen to the songs. Salvani gave a set of instructions to the children and then settled down in the front row. The journey, elongated primarily because of narrower pathways, would take around half an hour on the uneven muddy roads. The children talked and giggled all along and were happy that they were heading outside Lajnagar after a long time. Lala was careful enough not to overtake tempos after having been warned by Salvani.

The bus took a left turn after crossing a lotus covered pond. Ten minutes more into the ride and they would be reaching Berigaon. Berigaon was smaller but the local headman had got a small amusement park built up comprising of seesaws, swings and merry-go-rounds. Nothing fancy, but interesting enough for him to have earned a good standing amongst his peers. The headman’s son came to receive the bus at the entrance of the park and reassured Salvani about snacks being served for the children on time. The twenty young ones, all of them studying in class two, sat around a statue of an elephant waiting for their teacher to instruct them further.

Krishu was enjoying the mild sun rays on her face while feeling the wet grass with her hands. An occasional stone or two did spoil her experience but nothing else would keep her wandering mind busy. After some time she heard some sharp squeaks at a distance. She initially couldn’t figure out where they were coming from and curiosity made her scan the park. Tall trees surrounded it; the grass was a mix of green and pale brown; the ground was purposefully made curved with the help of large bumps for a playful appearance; a watchman was perched lazily on a bench and sipping tea near the entrance. The sharp sounds were intermittent but loud enough for Krishu to not ignore them. Salvani, on getting the snacks, distributed them amongst all equally. And now they were ready to run around, chase and frolic. They were left loose but Salvani and the watchman were keeping an eye on them. The slides made Krishu forget the squeaks as she got lost in her own world. After an hour or so Salvani called them back, “Children, it is time now to re-assemble!” Nobody paid heed but became less noisy hoping for an extension and associating their own silence with obeying the teacher. This would have sufficed had it been a classroom. After a few minutes she called them again, “Children, its time now! We will start the bus in five minutes. Anyone who doesn’t want to come back can continue playing” Her pronunciations were peculiar. She always extended the latter part of ‘children’ and got confused between the sounds of ‘s’ and ‘ch’.

The children, after taking some more time to end their games, started towards the same statue where they had assembled. Suddenly childlike wails attracted Krishu. She couldn’t ignore them anymore. She alone was worrying about from where could those come from. She had got this habit from Kasumbi, who even in the dead of the night went out to separate fighting stray dogs and entangled cats. Taking a quick detour without attracting the attention of Salvani, she stumbled across a litter of dogs. They were so young that their eyes were partially open, their bodies delicate and hair very sparse. All, except one, were tightly curled around each other to escape the cold and were probably hungry and calling out their mother. The odd one out was nonchalant about Krishu’s presence and kept sniffing the grass around. It seemed as if it was following a trail of smells with his freshly acquired senses. Krishu couldn’t help but notice one peculiar thing on this one. It had two, instead of one, small tail like structures on its behind. She tried to make sense of it by examining the others but couldn’t because they had only one. As if the trail suddenly led to Krishu, the odd one suddenly turned around and started running towards her and jumped to lick her. She laughed at his innocence and held him in her hands. He was so tiny and soft. His paws were gentle and the skin cold. His eyes were watery and nose slightly runny. He cycled his hind legs as if trying to find ground for getting out of her clasp but was helpless. Unbeknownst to Krishu, Salvani by now had walked up behind her was watching with impatience.

She hurled, “Krishu, leave that puppy and wash your hands right now! We don’t have much time as we need to reach Lajnagar before eleven”.

“Teacher, I want to take it home”, blurted Krishu without thinking what she was asking for; without thinking how Kasumbi and Rajvansh would react.

“What! Home! What will your parents say? They will fight with me for allowing you to do so! No, no. Keep him back. Lets go”.

“Please teacher, please. I will take good care and my parents won’t object. We keep so many pets at our home. I always feed the strays”.

“Krishu, we don’t have time to discuss all this right now. The Sarpanch’s son is waiting and so is the whole bus for us”.

“I won’t harm it”, Krishu tried one last time sheepishly to dispel all of Salvani’s doubts and her angst.

“Okay! But don’t tell your parents that I knew about this. Okay? Okay!”

Krishu quickly got up to her feet, bundled the puppy her arms and started following her. The puppy’s dirt rubbed against her sweater and his runny nose leaked on her forearms. But she was too happy with him to worry about these humanly notions of cleanliness. The rest of the litter was still sleeping and a missing one wouldn’t cause an alarm she thought. Sarpanch’s son smiled when he saw them and wished Salvani and asked her to visit their park often and spread the word further. Krishu’s friends surrounded her upon seeing the puppy. He became their cynosure for the rest of the journey through the same noisy roads; the same sights, the same cows on the roads and the same melee of tempos. Everything was same except for the two tailed puppy.

Upon reaching home Krishu was met with an unexpected reaction from Kasumbi. Kasumbi not only loved the puppy, but also immediately asked Krishu what his name was.

“Roosha”

“Roosha? What sort of name is that? What does it mean?”

“I don’t know mumma, but I like it. Roosha. Roosha”

“Roosha”

So Roosha it was. Kasumbi gave Roosha a nice warm bath and gave milk and tidbits to eat. Life for the next two months was fun. It was vacation time and with nothing to do, Krishu played all day long with him. She took him to the farms, her friends homes, neighbors place and even to the temple. The temple had a white colored statue of Lord Krishna and was looked after by Ramcharan, the priest. Roosha attracted attention wherever he went not as much for its playfulness or sparkling as for his two tails. They were still tiny but nonetheless were two. Everyone conjured up a different story to explain how Roosha had two tails. Some thought it is one tail which must have got cut from the middle. Few thought it must be a biological problem and the local vet should be consulted. While the rest attributed it to Lord Krishna who had bestowed upon him special beauty and loyalty. Whatever it was, Roosha could never escape evoking interest. Roosha was white and slender. His ears were sharp and pointed and legs strong. Though he was well fed by Kasumbi he hadn’t put on extra weight.

Lajnagar was a quiet village in the north of the country with only one school and a common dispensary. The temple was the community’s gathering place every evening. Festivals were celebrated with fervor with Ramcharan's approval. Further west, around fifty kilometers, was a large town, Damaarganj. The villagers often visited Damaarganj for getting permission for opening new facilities in Lajnagar or for meeting Collector sahib. Of recently there were news of some religious disturbances in the town. Two large sects of Hindus had clashed over their right to perform puja first over a sacred piece of land. Owing to which one particular sadhu had migrated to Lajnagar. He was tall, thin, always wore just a loincloth, and had long hair and a beard. His forehead was smeared with black colored powder or sand and his teeth were dark brown because of beetle nut chewing. He rarely smiled and had a fearsome demeanor. He had started living in a ramshackle hut right next to the temple. Ramcharan had helped him settle there. The sadhu could be seen lost in meditation most of the times; never paying attention to the villagers as if he was above them. He had painted his hut using bright orange colored paint – signifying his over religious leanings. He used to cook his own food which often resulted in thick black smoke coming out from the top of his hut. A thick layer of uprooted grass and chopped branches was always kept outside the hut’s door – to keep out snakes, lizards and rats. No one ever visited his hut and he kept his distance except during religious ceremonies when he freely blessed the villagers and took offerings.

The villagers too hardly paid any attention to the sadhu except when troubles fell on them – always attributing the cause as their own sins of past. Roosha was always the talk of the town but not for the sadhu. It seemed as if he was detached or maybe didn’t like animals to come near him. Even the amusing sight of Roosha wagging his two tails in tandem never softened the sadhu’s heart.

One particular evening, coming back from a friend’s place, Krishu allowed Roosha to walk in the lane. She usually never allowed this for the fear of Roosha getting lost or running away from her. Roosha, bound by habit, kept sniffing around and following Krishu. When they were crossing the temple, Roosha veered towards the hut and assuming the grass to be his turf peed on it. Before Krishu could realize what had happened, the incensed sadhu came out running and howling religious curses at the dog. He had a trishul in his hand and it seemed as if he was to avenge the imagined insult by killing Roosha. Krishu was quick enough and picked Roosha and ran inside the temple towards the priest. The sadhu followed them inside but Ramcharan intervened and saved the day. Krishu got so scared that she never went with Roosha near the temple again. The news of Roosha desecrating the sadhu’s sacred hut spread and reached Rajvansh. He scolded Krishu for allowing Roosha to roam around freely and violating other people’s right to dislike Roosha. The episode was soon forgotten amidst a bad news.

The Collector had informed the villagers that rainfall this season was going to be sparse and based on over production last year, the government will be buying much less. The lacking rainfall was bad enough. The ground now was parched, cracked and dry. The afternoons were deserted and the mornings gloomy. Discussions led by the elders always resulted in arguments and fights over the best solution. The common funds, held together for unforeseen disaster, were fast depleting. The Collector sahib couldn’t help them either. Their last succor was the sadhu. They approached him with their troubles. He was in a particular bad mood.

“Why do you think all these troubles are plaguing you?”

“Baba, we don’t know. We seek your guidance”

“Guidance! You don’t respect me and come to me only in times of despair!”

“Baba, we have never disrespected you. We always allowed you your privacy and never interfered in your life. Baba, if we have at all hurt you, then forgives us! For the sake of our children and our elders”

“That foolish girl, what’s her name, allowed her stupid animal to violate my sanctity and you come for my guidance! That sick animal still roams around freely in the village and you seek my advice! These sad times have befallen upon you only for your inaction in safeguarding my dignity”

“Baba, but Krishu is only a child. And Roosha just a tiny puppy. He knows not what he has done. Please forgive both!”

“Forgive? I cannot. God’s own home has been insulted and you have to face the wrath. Go away, for the solution lies in your own hands in front of you. Go away”

“Baba, if need be we will ask Rajvansh and Kasumbi to apologize to you. But please pray to the gods for our well being. Our crops are drying out, rainfall is meager and Collector sahib refuses to help”

“No apologies will do. I will let you know if something can pacify me and the gods”

Next morning when Krishu woke up, Roosha wasn’t next to her. She went outside to check on him and found him outside, with a crowd around him. Angry and bitter, they were arguing with Rajvansh and Kasumbi. She couldn’t understand what was happening. All she could understand was that they were asking for Roosha to be given to the sadhu. After a while the crowd dispersed and her parents came inside. They looked worried. Krishu’s enquiries went unanswered. After lunch, Kasumbi asked Krishu sleep. But this was surprising for she never used to ask Krishu to sleep in the afternoon. But nonetheless Krishu slept with Roosha next to her. She slept for a good three hours when she was suddenly awakened by a sharp cry of Roosha from outside. She got up on her feet and immediately ran out only to find Kasumbi being held tightly by a group of village women and Rajvansh pinned down to the ground by men. Ramcharan had Roosha in his hands and was running as fast as he could. Two other boys were following him. It was evening time with the sun about to set in fifteen minutes. Krishu started crying and following him, though she could never match his speed. At a distance she could see the sadhu emerge from his hut with a trishul and a dagger and join the trio. She hurried towards them. They were heading towards the depressed ground ahead of the sadhu’s hut. Before she could cross the temple, Bholu grabbed her by her arms. She wailed and begged him to leave her but he wouldn’t. She could hear Roosha’s wrenching cries.

The group of four, the priest, the sadhu and the two young boys, climbed down to the ground. The sun was almost down. It was hidden behind the tall trees as if incapable of being a witness. Fine rays filtered between the branches and fell on the temple. The silhouette of their actions was violent and uprooting. The wild swinging arms, the forceful movement of the trishul and the wild sway of the dagger could not have been a random call to action. The darkness of it all cowed the sun to set. Roosha’s yowls were no more to be heard. Krishu, still crying and struggling with Bholu, couldn’t make anything of it.

Ramcharan and sadhu returned and led the waiting villagers inside the temple. Bholu carried her on his shoulders. Krishu’s impressionable mind was still trying to connect the events till her thoughts subdued in the melodic chants, “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna, Hare Rama!”


1 comments:

  1. Sombre but beautiful. Every bit as rustic and earthy as India's countryside.

    ReplyDelete